It's a drill Bryan school officials know all too well. Notifying parents that one of their kid's classmates has contracted a case of pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough.
For the fifth time in eight months, the district went through the routine again Tuesday sending letters home with students who attend Jane Long Middle School, the campus where the latest case surfaced.
It was less than two weeks ago that a Sam Rayburn Middle School student and a sibling attending Bonham Elementary both came down with whooping cough. Prior to that, SFA Middle School had a case last November and Rayburn reported a whooping cough dismissal in May.
In a statement, school spokeswoman Sandy Farris said, "Though not an unusually high number of cases given the large student population, district officials are hoping the parent letters will alleviate any concerns, as well as provide facts regarding the disease.
"Pertussis (whooping cough) is caused by germs that live in the mouth, nose, and throat and can be sprayed into the air when a person with the disease sneezes, coughs or talks. Other people nearby can then inhale the germs. Touching a used tissue or sharing a cup used by someone with pertussis can also spread the disease.
"Pertussis symptoms appear five to twenty-one days after infection. Usually, only close contacts with people with pertussis result in another becoming infected. Pertussis begins with cold-like symptoms (sneezing and a runny nose) and a cough that gradually becomes worse. After one to two weeks, the cough usually occurs in strong “coughing fits.” In young children, this is often followed by a whooping noise as they try to catch their breath. After coughing, a person may have difficulty catching their breath, vomit, or become blue in the face from lack of air. Between coughing spells, the person may appear well. There is generally no fever. The cough is often worse at night and cough medicines usually do not help reduce the coughing. Coughing fits can last six weeks or longer. Adults, teens, and vaccinated children often have milder symptoms similar to bronchitis or asthma.
"Although pertussis vaccine is available, it cannot be given after seven years of age. Older children and adults with mild illness can transmit the infection and are often the source of illness in infants. Therefore, early recognition and treatment of pertussis in contacts of young infants and preventive treatment of their household members is especially important. Symptomatic children may return to school after completing the first five days of appropriately prescribed antibiotics."
The school district urges parents to watch if a child comes down with cold symptoms that include a cough, or if your child has had an unexplained cough, talk to your child’s doctor. For more information about pertussis contact the Brazos County Health Department or your family physician.